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Ulrich’s Tavern thrives with growth of medical corridor

By Jay Rey
Updated: 01/29/08 8:38 AM

 Derek Gee/Buffalo News

Jim Daley, owner of Buffalo’s oldest bar, Ulrich’s Tavern, sees flow going his way with new trade in the former German neighborhood.

If you’re down on Buffalo, and convinced there’s no hope for the city, pull up a stool at Ulrich’s Tavern, where owner Jim Daley will be pouring the drinks.

Daley is encouraged, not just for his bar — the oldest in the city — but for this slice of Buffalo that surrounds the tavern on the corner of Ellicott and Virginia streets.

Up the block, Roswell Park Cancer Institute has rebuilt and grown. Next door, Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute opened. Across the street, the University at Buffalo moved into its new biomedical building.

Now, Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer is backing UB’s plans to expand here, along the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, while the state just awarded $4.5 million to renovate the old Trico building for start-up companies in the biotechnology industry — all in hopes this accumulation of innovation can stimulate the region’s economy.

“You can do all the Bass Pros you want, but this biomedicine is legitimate,” said Daley from behind the bar one recent afternoon. “You can feel it.”

As this small corner of Buffalo makes a comeback, so, too, is Daley’s plucky little bar, which has survived everything from Prohibition to “urban renewal,” from the loss of its blue-collar base to the emergence of a new breed of barflies. In a way, Buffalo’s story is Ulrich’s story.

Daley’s parents, Jim and Erika, bought the bar in 1954. But it dates back to 1868, when it was a grocery store and saloon in a fast-growing German neighborhood home to Buffalo’s brewing industry.

The tavern changed owners several times before 1906, when a young beer-wagon driver named Michael Ulrich would take over for the next four decades. It was a favorite for politicians in the city’s German community. In fact, during Prohibition, the bar was made into a deli and restaurant, while the upstairs hotel became a private speakeasy for the pols.

By the time the Daleys took over, the bar was booming. The regulars from the neighborhood stopped by. Three shifts of workers poured in from Trico, the windshield wiper factory next door. It was a popular watering hole for reporters, office workers and pressmen at the Buffalo Courier-Express.

“My parents would open at 10 a.m. and close at 3 a.m.,” said Daley, who has been working behind the bar since he was 18. “And that didn’t mean they’d always close — they’d just turn out the lights.”

When urban renewal hit, the old neighborhood was leveled, and in the 1970s, the city took the building from the Daleys through eminent domain.

The Daleys still ran the bar, paying the city rent, while the family fought City Hall in court for years, eventually winning their case in 1982.

By this time, the Courier would fold, Trico slowly died, patrons moved to the suburbs, and the drinking culture had changed.

Once, Ulrich’s was one of 30 establishments in a four-block area. By the 1990s, it was the last one, and barely getting by. The family often thought about closing.

“We said that a lot,” said Daley, 49. “But you’re so entrenched, and, at a certain point, what else are you going to do? You’re not going to get anything for it.”

Daley made some adjustments when he took over for his parents in 2000.

He pitched the business as the oldest continuous tavern in the city and played on its roots, serving up home-cooked German food with the atmosphere of an Irish pub.

But things really began to change a few years ago, when Hauptman-Woodward opened its new research center next door.

Young researchers dropped by for a drink after work. Lab technicians stopped in for the knockwurst platter at lunch. Scientists came for Beakers ’n’ Beers, a monthly happy hour.

“We went from a mostly blue-collar bar,” Daley said, “to a white-collar bar.”

Today, there are about 8,500 people working throughout the medical corridor. That means the future is bright again.

“Last year was very good,” Daley said. “It’s the best year I had. We’re adding new people and not losing people.”

And while the clientele has changed, Ulrich’s hasn’t.

Step through the door of the long, narrow tavern, and there’s still the same cherry and stained-glass back bar Ulrich installed, while the restaurant’s tables and chairs are vintage 1920s.

Daley is behind the bar, as the lunch crowd dwindles.

“Jim, thank you,” says one customer, as he walks out the door. “Great lunch.” “Thanks, come again,” Daley says.

Daley often thinks of his father, “Hoops,” who died in 2002.

“If he could see the bar now, it would validate his work,” Daley said. “I think he’d be happy about it.”

A waitress walks up to give Daley a drink order.

“Jim,” she says, “Absolut martini with olives.” A martini? What would Hoops say? Daley grins.

“I don’t think he would have made martinis,” Daley says. “Back then, it was shots and beer.”

Maryalice Demler's Blog

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Ulrich's Tavern

Western New York's ethnic heritage and its food are just two of the many things that make our area special. A trip to Ulrich's Tavern on Ellicott Street in Buffalo has both. It opened in 1868 and has been serving German-American specialties ever since. The neighborhood used to be a German enclave back in the day, so I envision the Demlers making the trip down from NT, just to hang out with their peeps... 'er I mean "freunden".

I've sampled Ulrich's cuisine at several local events over the years, but I didn't make my first official trip to this historic tavern until last week. Steamy August isn't usually the month we crave comfort food, but I did! Something last week whispered "German potato pancakes" to me and off we went.

Ulrich's is located on the corner of Ellicott and Virginia, right next the Hauptmann-Woodward Institute. The contrast between the two buildings; ultra-modern metal-skinned research building to a weathered wood and brick tavern, just seems to tell the tale of our Queen City in 2007.

The folks at Ulrich's could not have been friendlier. It feels like a tavern that has been serving the masses for 140 years. The photos on the wall tell the history of the tavern and people it has served. That will keep you busy while waiting for your food to be served.

I made the mistake of ordering the potato pancakes as an appetizer. What was I thinking? They were each as big as my head, thick, flavorful and the perfect texture. I thought about eating just one and saving my appetite. No, that didn't happen. By the time my main course arrived I was already full, but it looked just too delicious!

I had the Special that night which was the Schlachtplatte: three different sausages, red cabbage, kraut and potato. I loved it! It was so good, and such a carb-load, I swear I am still wearing it around my waist at this moment. I really don't care, though. When you are tasting history, heritage and home cookin'... all diets are off. Check out Ulrich's next time you're downtown.... it's wunderbar! Lunch daily, dinners on Thursday and Friday only.


Brews, brats, and a side of history

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Not to be mistaken for TGIFriday’s

In 1868, three years after the end of the U.S. Civil War, the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteed African Americans equal rights under law.

And this tavern opened.

Both have had their ups and downs since. But at least black people can vote now, and you can still get a cold beer and a sausage at Ulrich’s Tavern, at 674 Ellicott St. (at Virginia Street) in Buffalo (716-855-4109).

Ulrich’s boasts of its history, available as a handout at the bar. But its beer collection, and reliable German food, is what draws customers. They always have the latest from Flying Bison Brewing Co., and one night before a Sabres game, we chose the Barrel Roll Bock. Rich, malty, a beer to drink for the taste of it.

Flying Bison Barrel Roll Bock, left; Spaten Munich

My friend Scott tucked into some bock too, while I moved on to the crisp, hoppy stylings of Spaten Munich.

We went for $15.95 dinner plates that included spaetzle, a fresh noodle-like dumpling; kraut, braised red cabbage and a pickle. Scott had rouladen, beef wrapped around a filling that included chopped pickles and mustard seed, in a creamy sauce. I went for the “Schlachtplatte” sausage assortment, with weisswurst, knockwurst and another offering that may have had cheese in it.

Not the wurst I’ve had.

With fresh rye bread and butter, it was a filling - and entirely fitting - feed to prepare for the rigors of a Buffalo winter night, and the Sabres playing like a bunch of drama queens in a midseason swoon.

NASTY SHOCK WARNING: Note the “No Parking Here To Corner” sign mounted about 12 feet up the light pole. If you’re arriving after sundown and you haven’t been to Ulrich’s before, it’s easy to miss.

In case you’re wondering, the Buffalo Police will charge you $35 for the lesson. Even if you happen to arrive and offer to move your car before they actually start writing the ticket. Like the City of Buffalo doesn’t offer people enough reasons to stay away.


Filed under beer, pork, restaurants


Nice blurb, never been there but want to go now…maybe our next lunch when you feel better…

Hey cool! Thanx for this review. I always wondered about this place since I’ve been looking for local restaurant to get some good (authentic) german food. Never been there before though but might check it out. Thanx for the parking warning too heheheh

Life & Arts

Buffalo News First Sunday Magizine October 1, 2006
Front Page > Life & Arts > First Sunday
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Ulrich's Presidential Pancakes

Consider the Grover Cleveland dossier. Twice president of the United States. Governor of New York. Mayor of Buffalo. Sheriff of Erie County. And now potato pancake connoisseur.

That late addition comes virtue of Jim Daley Jr., owner of Ulrich's Tavern at 674 Ellicott St., the city's oldest continuous tavern still serving the Oktoberfest staple Cleveland couldn't get enough of.

The presidential pancake saga dates back to 1893. Mike Ulrich, the tavern's original owner, was working as a busboy at the Niagara Hotel. "President Cleveland happened to stop in for dinner just as Mike was making potato pancakes for the help," according to Daley. "The president, sniffing the air, asked what smelled so good. He marched into the kitchen, watched as Mike turned the cakes over, and asked for a batch. The president had eight for dinner."

Cleveland's cake compulsion didn't end there. He later returned to the hotel and asked for Ulrich, says Daley. After learning Daley worked as a beer wagon driver, Cleveland ordered ordered the Secret Service to track him down and bring him back to the restaurant. Ulrich came back to the hotel, the story goes, where he whipped up his fresh potato pancakes for the most famous fan in the country.

More than a century later, Ulrich's potato pancakes - golden brown, moist and addictively delicious - remain popular as a main course or an accompaniment to a platter of bratwurst and kraut.

"Our potato pancakes are a simple comfort food hot off the grill," says Daley. "Perfect with a dark German beer, they're the same kind of food people ate here 120 years ago."

- Brenda Alesii

Beer Review Vol. 9


Ulrich's Slideshow

If you’re going to contemplate drowning, don’t torment yourself in shallow waters “

In my capacity as a writer for BR.O, I am mainly trying to be a beer, rather than a bar, reviewer. True enough, I like to make a link to the bar's website and a nod to the establishment's bona fides as a good place to get good beer. But the main purpose of the post is to educate and disseminate knowledge about the products rather than the purveyors.

Not so this entry.

I want to urge people to check out Ulrich's tavern. I can't say enough good things about the place. Consider: It is steeped in local brewing, political, commercial and ethnic history, it has been open continuously--even during Prohibition--since 1868. Current owner Jim Daly is a most affable host and will talk your ears off on any of a number of topics; I recommend sports. It has a unique and unpretentious atmosphere, layered with history. And, you can get amazing German eats and wash them down with authentic German beers like Spaten or Warsteiner. Or, try something from local brewery Flying Bison. There are always two varieties of FB on tap, one of which is the Hoops Special Dark which is brewed exclusively for Ulrich's and is named for Jim's dad- owner beginning on New Years Eve, 1954.

That's Jim Sr. in 1981

This beer pours out dark, at least for a lager, which is to say it's not as black as a stout or a porter, but rather a deep copper with hints of red when held to the light. It pours with a thin head and very little lacing is left on the glass. The nose is faint, but sweet- on balance sweet rather than bitter, hinting at caramel. Despite the color, it drinks much more like a lager than you might expect- the mouthfeel is relatively thin and there is a fairly high amount of carbonation. The flavor is mostly the sweet Munich malt, with only a touch of German noble hop bitterness to hold it back, in the finish. If you are a fan of flavorful lagers such as Brooklyn, Blue Point's Toasted Lager, or even Yuengling, you'll want to give Hoops a try. It isn't as hoppy as the Brooklyn, nor as subtle as Yuengling, but it does make for a refreshing and actually quite light drink.

Here's Erika & Jim Sr., and who's that they're holding? Jim Jr., natch!

Ulrich's serves lunch Monday-Friday from 11:30-2:45, and dinner Fridays and Saturdays from 5-9:30. Their live music schedule is available at their website.

Current tap selection consists of: Guinness, Warsteiner, Spaten Lager & Optimator, Labatt, Burning River from Great Lakes Brewing in Cleveland, and Flying Bison's Dawn Patrol Gold (in addition to the H.S.D.) A special ale from Custom Brewcrafters in Honeoye Falls, NY will soon be available. As well, handmade Iroquois Root Beer pours from one tap.

A history of the bar can be read here and another history, along with some great old photos, are available here and here.

Take Note: The Buffalo Bills dinner, link here, has been rescheduled for 9th February. Jim notes that all the events planned before are still on, only the date has changed. Guests will include former Bills player Harry Jacobs.

Rob January 20, 2006 10:53 AM

I'd also put their martini's up against any in the city! It's a great place.

digger January 25, 2006 05:08 PM

great beer, great food and so much history
it's a must sstop on Fridays
Drink the hoops beer, the guy the beer was named after was a charcter . we all miss him!!!!



The Past Meets the Future with a Passion

You walk into the place, and your heels hit the 137-year-old wood floor and you admire the tin ceiling and black-and-white photos on the wall of a time long gone.
In the back room, clusters of people sit at wooden tables in the dim light, dark beers in plastic cups in hand. At the center table, a shifting cast of folks on the far side of 35 lean toward one another as if sharing a great secret.

It could be any Thursday night in any Buffalo bar. But the folks at the center table in Ulrich's Tavern, opened when Ulysses Grant was president, aren't lawyers stopping for a quick one on the way home. The talk may turn to the Bills and bloated government, but it is mostly about a passion they share for a work that only a few can do.

Ulrich's is an ancient place a short stumble from our temples of technology. It is the place where past meets future, the point of convergence - every Thursday after work - for molecular biologists and research scientists and biotech CEOs who work within stumbling distance. They come from the shiny new Hauptman-Woodward Research Institute and from nearby Roswell Park and from Main Street biotech companies and - soon - from the coming UB Life Sciences building.

Ulrich's back room is where Hauptman's Tim Umland and Wayne Shultz met Jim Hengst, CEO of ZeptroMetrix. The connection led to a transcontinental partnership that might lead to a treatment for SARS.

"It all happened," said Umland, "because we got to know Jim at Ulrich's."

It is Thursday night, and the pitchers keep coming. A guy pulls up a chair next to Umland. With his cotton-white hair and striking face-to-the-wind looks, he could be Russell Crowe's first mate in "Master and Commander." Ken Gross rode over on his yellow Ducati motorcycle from nearby Roswell Park, where he runs the molecular and cellular biology department. He and Umland start jawing about genes, parasites and "insulin crystals in microquantity."

Every collaboration starts not with a molecular formula but with a human interaction. The high-IQ Ulrich regulars know it. Behind the degrees and the awards - with Herb Hauptman's Nobel Prize the noblest - lies a how's-it-going attitude.

The brilliant minds are infused with a Buffalo mentality. The egos and titles are subservient to the science. Nothing is bigger than the mission: Help people.

"The most important thing," said research scientist Bob Blessing, filling his cup from a pitcher, "is the way we get along with one another."

"That's right," said Umland. "A lot of times you're making headway, but you need help making the next step. Here, you can talk to somebody in a different field, from a different place, who says, "OK, try this.' "

You can't quantify that openness. You can't measure it in a test tube or display its erector set-like molecular structure on a flat-screen monitor. But the ease is real, it works, and it is why Eddie Snell is here.

Snell is an Englishman and a structural biologist who was with NASA in Alabama. He came up for a seminar, stayed for an interview and came to stay - one of two out-of-town scientists already lured by the brainpower and the new Hauptman-Woodward building. But it was more than a building that brought him.

"I've never been anyplace else where I've felt such support for what I'm doing and how I can help others," said Snell, between gulps of dark liquid. "It feels like a family. Along with the (new) building, it was my main reason for coming - the way people here are."

In Ulrich's back room, anything can happen. It is the place where social lubrication meets science, in search of the chemistry that cures our ills.

By: Donn Esmonde
Source: The Buffalo News
© 2004 The Buffalo News

© 2002 BuffLink, Inc. All rights reserved.


Ulrich's still favors German-American fare

Ulrich's Tavern has been cooking up a storm of traditional favorites since 1868.

News Restaurant Reviewer

ULRICH'S TAVERN star.gif (184 bytes)star.gif (184 bytes)star.gif (184 bytes)
674 Ellicott St. (855-8409). The place is over 100 years old and has managed to preserve its charm. The specialty is German-American food although sandwiches and salads are also available. Very informal, as you might expect.  air conditioning. Credit cards: American Express, Visa, MasterCard
FAVORITE DISH: Wiener Schnitzel
NEEDS WORK: Sauerkraut
PRICE RANGE: German specialties from $6.50 SERVICE: Can be hectic
HOURS: Lunch, Monday through Friday, 11 to 3. Starting in September dinner, Friday and Saturday
HEALTHY CHOICES: Grilled Portobello Salad, Grilled Chicken Breast Sandwich
PARKING: On the street
KID APPEAL: Older children will enjoy it

History, history, history - here's a tavern, Ulrich's, that's been operating since 1868. When it opened at the corner of Ellicott and Virginia streets, there were five breweries within a few blocks, where vacant land now stands. A quick look reveals that the menu, of course, has changed through those years. Ulrich's now offers such newfangled notions as Portobello Salads ($6.95) and Bacon Blue Burgers ($4.95). That's progress, I guess. Enough of the old stuff remains so that you can get a whiff of what has been, however. Ulrich's is no longer German-American owned, but it still offers potato pancakes, wiener schnitzel and German sausage.

So sit down at your blue-and-white checkered covered table in the back room and concentrate - as we did - on that part of the menu.

Naturally, we ordered an appetizer portion of Potato Pancakes before we had even unfolded our napkins. You get three for $4.95; five for $5.95. And then came what the Companion considered a blow: We were told there would be a 15-minute wait for them because back in the kitchen both frying pans were in use.

I, on the other hand, considered that a plus. Imagine, just like home. It meant someone back there was really cooking.

Finally a compromise was reached. We asked our server to bring the pancakes after our main dish, and when they arrived, we were happy enough. Big (make that huge) and crisp, the pancakes were made from chopped rather than grated spuds. Served with applesauce and/or sour cream, they were delicious.

I had ordered the Wiener Schnitzel or Breaded Veal Cutlet ($8.95) and found I had a real meal on my hands. The meat itself was especially good. It was moist and juicy (this cut rarely is) and expertly flavored.

The German Potato Salad and Red Cabbage in accompaniment were nice and tangy, too. (The sauerkraut was runny.)

The Companion opted for the German Sausage Platter ($6.95 with the same accompaniments). It was a product of Spar Sausage, and it was delicately delicious.

We ordered Cherry Bread Pudding for dessert, too, but somehow or other it never came - and by that time they were running out of silverware, too. (As you probably have gathered by now, this place can get a little hectic on Fridays.)

Other German items on the menu include the Red Baron - a giant potato pancake stuffed with both bratwurst and weisswurst for $6.95 which, too, can involve a lengthy wait, and a Liverwurst on Rye Platter for $6.95. •

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Type: Beer Bar
Ulrich's Tavern
674 Ellicott Street
Buffalo, NY 14203
(716) 855-8409
Listed Since: February 2002
Last Updated: December 2002

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If you’re from out of town, and in Buffalo for a Bills game, a stop at Ulrichs Tavern is a must. You will discover superb German food and great service in an historic atmosphere. If you’re lucky, a live band could be performing, or you could even run into Takeo Spikes and Lawyer Milloy. No matter, June and Jim will extend some warm hospitality and make you feel just like one of the regulars. The Flying Bison beer is a real treat and the prices for a home cooked German dinner to tell your friends about are very reasonable. It just doesn’t get any better! This was our second visit in two years, and we intend to make Ulrichs a yearly tradition. GO BILLS!!

Write Your Review Reply to this Review Report Review See more reviews from Larry R Larry R, Clifton Park, NY

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Buffalo & Western New York's oldest tavern was a hit with the whole family. We stopped in for lunch and a brew on 7/15/03 and can't say enough good things. First, the food was Awsome! as was the service. Southerners in the far north eating Beef on Weck and they made up a fresh batch of potato pancakes to go with the Kaiser Platter. The beer selection isn't huge (awesome vs great) but what they have is top notch. The 2 Flying Bisons (1st Ward Red and Barnstormer Pale Ale) were the draw for me but throw in Guinness, and Warsteiner and like Lew says below: How can you miss?

Write Your Review Reply to this Review Report Review See more reviews from Jeff McClellan Jeff McClellan, Raleigh, NC

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You can't go wrong with Ulrich's and the reason being is its longevity. The place is an institution and what makes this one so special is that its still working. I had several 1st Ward Red Ales from Bison Brewing along with a beef on kemmelweck...a classic Buffalo experience. May they sustain for another 135 years! If you're anywhere near Buffalo, you need to make it to Ulrich's!

Write Your Review Reply to this Review Report Review See more reviews from Tom Rothrock Tom Rothrock, Centennial, CO

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Old time feel, Fresh local Flying Bison draft beer. Great history and breweriana throughout. This is what beer bars are supposed to be like.

Write Your Review Reply to this Review Report Review See more reviews from jimbo jimbo, frankentrost, mi

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Ulrich's may not have the best selection of beer in Buffalo, but it's more than adequate, and the place itself is fantastic. It is the oldest bar in Buffalo, opened in 1868. They served in the upstairs (as the "Hassenpfeffer Club") during Prohibition, and presidential candidate Al Smith dined here during his campaign as the Democrat's "Wet" candidate. I missed the food, unfortunately: they only serve on Friday and Saturday nights, and it's gotten great reviews in local press. A piece of history with draft Flying Bison, Guinness, and Warsteiner: how can you miss?

Write Your Review Reply to this Review Report Review See more reviews from Lew Bryson Lew Bryson, Newtown, PA

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